A huge asteroid following the orbit of Mars could be the “long lost twin” of our Moon.
This is according to scientists who claim that space rock has an identical composition to some parts of the lunar surface.
Researchers think asteroid (101429) 1998 VF31 may have ancient origins closer to home.
They said it could be a “fragment of the Moon’s original solid crust relic”.
The scientists used an instrument called a spectrograph on the 26-foot Very Large Telescope (VLT) of the European Southern Observatory in Chile to observe the asteroid.
It allowed them to see how the sunlight reflected off it and then compared it to the moon.
Galin Borisov, the astrochemist of the Armagh Observatory and Planetarium, explained: “The spectrum of this particular asteroid appears to be almost dead center for parts of the Moon where exposed bedrock is present such as the interior of the craters and the mountains”.
We don’t know for sure why this is just a theory is that the Moon and the asteroid have a similar origin or were combined once and then separated.
AOP astronomer Apostolos Christou said: “The first solar system was very different from the place we see today.
“The space between the newly formed planets was full of debris and collisions were the order of the day.
“Large asteroids [planetesimals] they constantly hit the Moon and other planets.
“A fragment of such a collision could have reached the orbit of Mars when the planet was still forming and was trapped in its clouds of Troy.”
There are said to be other explanations for the similarities and the asteroid could also be a fragment of Mars itself.
Much more research is needed before we can be certain either way.
These findings were reported online in the journal Icarus.